The chief executive of a major energy supplier is urging employers to do more to retain the almost 5 million people who juggle work and caring responsibilities.
Iain Conn, Centrica group chief executive, has asked more than 100 businesses to enhance their carers leave policies to help retain the increasing number of “informal” carers, who often have to stop working to look after ill, disabled or elderly relatives.
Centrica has also called on the government to introduce 5-10 days of mandatory paid leave, which it believes would help save employers £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absence costs and a further £3.4 billion in costs associated with replacing staff who are no longer able to work.
The firm will offer 10 days’ paid leave to all its carers, followed by another 10 days that can be taken if matched with annual leave.
Previously, its staff would have to sacrifice a day of annual leave to use one of their 20 days’ paid carers leave. Flexible working will also be offered from the first day an employee becomes a carer.
Conn’s letter to 100 employers, which was also signed by the chief executive of charity Carers UK, suggests the direct cost to an employer of losing a working carer is between 100%-150% of their annual salary, which equates to around £1.3bn a year to the economy.
It adds that 90% of working carers are over 30 and “have experience that employers can’t afford to lose”.
“There are substantial benefits to businesses, society, the carers and those they care for to help as many carers to remain in work as possible. Our experience shows that there is a clear business case for supporting carers with savings from increased retention and ensuring carers don’t have to take unplanned absences,” the letter says.
Earlier this year the Centre for Ageing Better said employees who care for relatives should receive statutory paid leave and the right to return to work once their circumstances change.
Helen Walker, Carers UK chief executive, said: “More than 600 people give up work every day to care for a loved one, often taking with them skills and years of experience.
“Whether looking after a partner receiving hospital treatment, or supporting parents to live independently at home, a right to five to 10 days paid care leave could make all the difference to a member of staff juggling work and care.
“It’s important now more than ever that the government and employers support the rising number of carers to remain in work. It makes good business sense and helps families who are caring. The consequences of failing to do so are huge.”
Karen Thornley, CEO of Innecto Reward Consulting, said caring for relatives can be hugely distracting for staff and affects their productivity.
“Whilst Centrica is not the first to champion additional leave, it’s a great step forward. Offering generous leave to care for relatives can provide huge business benefits, not only can it reduce absenteeism, it will by default also improve productivity and staff retention; directly impacting the bottom line,” she said.
“It also enhances the overall employer deal by boosting the benefits package and creating a perception of a family friendly workplace.”